In July 2015 Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby, N.C., displayed the Christian flag above the American flag to show they were ultimately accountable to God, not the U.S. government.
Churches around the state continue to follow their example one year later.
Photo courtesy of Bethlehem Baptist Church
Seabron Echols and Nicolas Spencer raise the Christian flag, accompanied by troop master Kevin Echols.
Gary Lucas, pastor of Bladen Union Baptist Church in Fayetteville, N.C., brought the idea to a church meeting after reading about the God Before Government movement in the July 2 issue of the Biblical Recorder.
That weekend the church raised the Christian flag above the American flag on the pole, taking a stand for God.
In Kings Mountain, N.C., Bethlehem Baptist Church held a ceremony June 12 to dedicate three new flag poles in memory of former deacon Charlie Herndon.
Discussions about the number of poles and positioning of flags began more than three years ago, but a family’s desire to dedicate the poles in honor of Herndon prompted the church to take action.
Trail Life USA Troop 9111 raised the Christian flag on the center pole, between the American and North Carolina flags.
Steve Taylor, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist, emphasized three points during the planning period for the display. First, because Bethlehem Baptist is the church with Christ as its head, if an American flag was to be raised, a Christian flag must also be raised.
Second, Christ’s Kingdom is eternal – if there was going to be one pole, the Christian flag must be highest, citing Psalm 145:13. With three poles, the Christian flag must be highest and in the center.
Lastly, the flag placement is in line with scripture. Bethlehem honors the U.S. government and flag but gives highest honor to God, referring to 1 Timothy 1:17.
Rit Varriale, pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church, founded God Before Government to prioritize serving God over a government that may mandate Christians to violate their faith commitments.
“When we started God before Government, we felt strongly that it needed to be a movement, not a moment,” he said.
“I’m not surprised that churches continue to join us one year later. Movements take time, and we praise God for the results of the first year.”
Other North Carolina churches have joined the movement, including West Asheville Baptist Church; Montwood Baptist Church, Roxboro; Atkinson Baptist Church; Bethel Baptist Church, Shelby; and Mulls Memorial Baptist Church, Shelby. Individuals and families also shared photos of their own displays to Varriale’s Facebook page.
Varriale said churches that decide to fly the Christian flag over the American flag “need to be prepared to be challenged by their community, but they need to know that the tensions, controversies and challenges will serve their church well by causing them to do some soul searching about what it means to be a Christian community in an increasingly anti-Christian culture.”
Visit Godbeforegovernment.org or facebook.com/godbeforegovernment.